Columbia says it has begun suspending students who refuse to leave encampment

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Columbia University on Monday began suspending the students who refuse to leave the pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, hours after the deadline to leave the encampment passed.

“We have begun suspending students as part of this next phase of our efforts to ensure safety on our campus,” Ben Chang, vice president of communications for Columbia University said in a press conference early Monday evening. “Once disciplinary action is initiated, adjudication is handled by several different units within the University based on the nature of the offense.”

Earlier in the day, Columbia — where the first major encampment took place — told students they must disperse from the camp by 2 p.m. and sign a document pledging to obey university rules on their way out, or they would be suspended from the school.

“Those who did not oblige began to be suspended by around 5:30 p.m. Monday, and were deemed ineligible to complete the semester to graduate, Chang said. The students will also be “restricted” from all academic, residential and recreational spaces, he added.

Chang did not specify the exact number of students who have been suspended so far.

The protests have continued at Columbia and college campuses across the country for more than a week, sparking the arrests of hundreds of students and faculty members. The demonstrators are calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and a halt in U.S. military aid to Gaza.

Chang said Columbia officials tried to urge the student protestors to remove the encampment to not “deprive” their student colleagues of a graduation.

University of Southern California cancelled its main commencement ceremony amid criticism after it nixed a pro-Palestinian valedictorian’s speech.

School administrators are faced with finding the balance between upholding the right to free speech while also protecting the safety of Jewish students. Many of the protests have been reported to be peaceful, though concerns have been raised over the proliferation of antisemitic rhetoric.

A coalition of over 20 Democratic House members sent a letter to Columbia University on Monday urging the administrators to end the encampment.

“We, the undersigned, write to express our disappointment that, despite promises to do so, Columbia University has not yet disbanded the unauthorized and impermissible encampment of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish activists on campus,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As a result of this disruption on campus, supported by some faculty members, many students have been prevented from safely attending class, the main library, and from leaving their dorm rooms in an apparent violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” they added.

Other Democrats, however, have defended the demonstrations and accused school administers of violating protestors’ rights.

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